Somewhere in his Thane flat, Floyd Martis, 24, still has the blood-stained documents and a bullet he picked up nine years ago from inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The documents had been in his dead father’s pocket. The bullet he had found lying on the marble floor. “It’s to remember him,” he says.
Nine years after Faustine Martin, then 49 and head steward at the hotel’s Sea Lounge restaurant, died after being shot in the head, Floyd now plans to marry next year, a love marriage to a friend from engineering college. “Of course, it’s not the same without him. A father’s presence means so much at a wedding. He would have made the arrangements. But life moves on, a train can’t remain halted at one station,” says the engineer who now works with a construction major.
He plans to complete his post graduation abroad but settle in Mumbai, the city that gave him memories, “both good and the worst ones”. And he plans to have a few kids, make sure his mother and sister are happy and comfortable.
Floyd was 15 years old and preparing for his Class X board exams at the time of the attacks. Hours after the attack began, his father was dead. His sister Priya Florence was the last survivor to be pulled out of the hotel’s data center, 36 hours later.
He knows many who were affected by the attacks still feel anger towards the perpetrators of the attacks. “As we offered funeral prayers in church, I stood there with everyone grieving around me and decided to forgive those who killed him,” Floyd says. He feels the act of forgiveness coaxes one to become a better person.
His father had worked in the Taj for 27 years, and his sister had only recently joined the hotel’s IT department. On November 26, Faustian called home to inform them of the attack, and later once again to say he was safely outside the hotel. “But our daughter was still inside and my husband decided to go back inside to find her,” says Agnes, Floyd’s mother who now works with the Taj’s charitable initiative to aid victims of the 26/11 attack. The next day was their wedding anniversary.
Florence was hiding in the first floor of the heritage wing of the hotel, while Faustine was on the ground floor hiding with several guests and colleagues in a butchery when a terrorist entered the corridor. In the darkness, his phone had beeped, a new phone that he was still getting familiar with. A single shot pierced a glass wall and hit his face. “His friend who was hiding next to him remembers his face. My father had no time to react. The bullet hit him, a tiny smile appeared and he died,” Floyd says. It was after 3 am on November 27.
On the first floor, Florence was listening to a friend reading verses from the Bible over the phone. For three days, she sat crouched under a table, without food, her clothes soiled, legs numb. “I kept thinking, what should I do? Should I cry? Not cry. How does one react in such situations? I realised I have to live without my father, I have to plan my career and earn for my family,” Floyd says.
The teenager who identified his father’s body, single-handedly took decisions regarding the funeral, made sure his traumatized mother and sister were looked after is now the backbone of the household. Florence lives in Dubai with her husband and continues to work with the Taj group.
Floyd and his mother plan to shift to a new flat next year. Among the things that will remain prominently displayed in their drawing room is the golden badge Faustine wore the night he died and a bravery certificate awarded posthumously.